Archive for the 'Food & Drink' Category

October 20th, 2006

Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, print version

‘Tis the week for new printed books! Today, Take Control Books released the printed version of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s available from Qoop, the print-on-demand service run by former Kensington head honcho Bill Murray. The print edition is 7 x 9 inches, Wire-O binding, with pages printed in either black and white ($19.99) or color (for $35.99). (Those who have already purchased the ebook can get a $10 discount on the printed version by clicking the “Check for Updates” button on the first page of the PDF.) The handy “Print Me” file with recipes and schedules is also available to everyone who purchases the print edition.

September 22nd, 2006

Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner

Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner coverTo celebrate the autumnal equinox today, I’m happy to announce the publication of an appropriately fall-themed book: Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner. Like other Take Control publications, it makes complicated tasks easy for mere mortals; in this case, though, the subject matter isn’t computers, but rather cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It costs $10 for the downloadable PDF version; a spiral-bound print-on-demand version will also be available in a couple of weeks or so (regrettably, too late for readers in Canada, where Thanksgiving falls on October 9 this year). Readers of both versions get access to a special “Print Me” file with summaries of all the recipes, shopping lists, and schedules. As usual, you can download a free 31-page sample.

I’ve written a lot of ebooks (this is, I think, my 11th, depending on how you count) and I thought I’d more or less mastered the process. But this one was a much different (as in significantly longer and harder) undertaking. For one thing, recipes take a lot of time to test: if you overcook the turkey you spent the morning brining, you can’t just use an Undo command or revert to the backup turkey you archived an hour ago. For another, everyone’s kitchen, ingredients, and skills are a bit different, so what works marvelously for one tester may not work for the next. And we’ve had to overcome numerous technical hurdles (such as getting fractions to print correctly on certain platforms) and management issues (such as an illustrator flaking out on us before Jeff Tolbert came to our rescue), among many others.

In all, this project has been much more work for all of us than we’d ever imagined, and speaking for myself, it was the most difficult ebook I’ve written. That’s a bit ironic in the sense that we’re trying out this whole cookbook thing for fun, not as a change in our editorial direction. (Of course, if this title sells 10,000 copies in the next month, I think we’d all be more than willing to endure this sort of pain again…but we’re not counting our books before they’re sold.) But I also think it’s one of the best and most useful things I’ve written. I’m really proud of the way it turned out, and I expect it will make Thanksgiving a lot easier and less stressful for lots and lots of people.

Speaking of cooking and computers, I’d like to officially announce The Geeky Gourmet, my new blog about food and technology. I’ll be mentioning a lot of Thanksgiving-related stuff, of course, but the blog will cover all sorts of things: cooking science, food gadgets, restaurants, culinary technologies, and anything else pertaining to food that strikes my fancy, especially if it also has a technology angle.

Last but not least, I should call attention to the fact that I’ve retooled the look and feel of this site a bit, moving from a cluttered three-column design to a more streamlined two-column approach, swapping in a newer picture of myself, and making lots of other small changes. Perhaps I’ll even manage to post a bit more frequently, now that the place looks spiffier.

March 4th, 2006

Thin Mint

Like many people in the United States, I’ve had a lifelong fondness for Girl Scout cookies, and like a considerable percentage of Girl Scout cookie fans, my favorite variety has always been Thin Mint.

Of course, you can’t purchase Girl Scout cookies just any old time; you can buy them only during their brief annual sales drive, and even then, only if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, you can’t always predict when and where you might run into a Girl Scout with cookies to sell. Generally, the pattern has been that I find them in front of the subway station when I’m in a hurry and have no cash, and can’t find them when I have both time and money. But, when the planets have aligned and I’ve discovered a source under the right circumstances, I’ve always bought as many boxes as I could, which has invariably turned out to be two (plus the Samoas that Morgen’s especially fond of).

If I exercise the utmost self control and ration myself severely, two boxes of Thin Mint cookies will last about two months. So when, in July or October, I have the inevitable craving for Thin Mint cookies, I’m completely out of luck. (And don’t get me started on other brands of thin chocolate-mint cookies. They Just Aren’t The Same.) Of course, I’ll get another craving in January or February, and that’s when I start thinking: Hmmmm, Girl Scout cookie season approaches soon. Remember to be on the lookout.

So last week, I was worrying out loud that I may have missed the sales drive this year—I didn’t see any Girl Scouts outside the subway station and didn’t know where else to find them. Then yesterday evening, when I met Morgen after work to see Match Point, we walked right by a little stand on the sidewalk where two or three young girls and their adult helper were cheerfully proffering cookies. Oh yeah.

I had to go down the block to get some extra cash, but I returned 10 minutes later and waited in line. When the youngest of the girls present asked me what I wanted, I said, “I’d like a full case of the Thin Mints”—her eyes got really big—“and two boxes of Samoas.” It took the adult helper a few moments to calculate how much that would cost ($49 in all, probably the single largest cookie purchase of my life). But I think I made some scouts very happy, and I know I made myself very happy.

Of course, then we had to lug all those boxes to the theater and back, and they were pretty heavy. (Morgen helpfully noted that the weight would soon shift from the box to my midsection.) But it was worth the effort.

I still have to ration them, but now I can reliably count on having at least one Thin Mint cookie every single day until next year’s drive. Life is good.

November 7th, 2005

An Afternoon in Provence

Yesterday afternoon, I had the great pleasure of meeting yet another of my literary heroes: Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence and it sequels, several novels, and a few delectable works of non-fiction. His latest book, which I bought yesterday, is Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes. Mayle wrote this book along with (and as a favor to) baker Gerard Auzet, whose bakery and bread featured prominently in A Year in Provence. It is what it sounds like: a guide to baking bread in the traditional French manner, but written for an audience of mere mortals in Peter Mayle’s inimitable style.

Peter gave a delightful presentation at Book Passage in Corte Madera (just north of San Francisco), where all the biggest writers seem to show up when in northern California. Afterward, when Morgen and I went up for the obligatory autograph (I do seem to be collecting an unusual number of those, don’t I?), I told him that his books had completely changed our eating habits and had been responsible for our taking multiple trips to France (he remarked that it looked good on us); few people can claim to have had such an influence on our lives. Judging by the other comments and questions I heard, he gets that sort of thing a lot.

What a life: kicking back in a comfy home in the south of France, surrounding yourself with incredible food and drink, and making a tidy living writing about your experiences. If Peter Mayle ever quits his job, I’ll be first in line to apply for the position.